From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Well into his ninth decade, the painter Lucian Freud (grandson of Sigmund) not only shows no signs of slowing down, he hasn't even adopted a signature "late style." Although most of the paintings and drawings in this marvelous collection are characteristically concerned with the human body, the painter's dogs are frequently (and vividly) present; there are a number of landscapes (including an evocative Constable tribute); and his portraits include a number that are focused very tightly on the face. These portraits—very small scale, and with an exaggeration of detail that miraculously avoids caricature—culminate in Freud's controversial portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. A charming photograph records her sitting for the painting—the artist looks away from his tiny canvas while the monarch regards him with a look of wry amusement. The final portrait captures not only the queen's regal hauteur but also the defiance of a tough old granny whose life has been far from easy. This broad sympathy for the ways in which experience marks our faces and bodies has deepened in Freud—if he is "mellowing" at all it is toward an interest in character as strong as his interest in the flesh that contains it. The reproductions are of unusually high quality—Freud's highly worked and pebbled surfaces seem to stand out from the page. (Nov. 17)
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Some critics call Freud the only significant realist painter around these days, which surely must give untutored viewers of his work pause. Oh, yes, Freud's garden paintings are all very nice, what with their variety of painterly manners, from sharp delineation of leaves to impressionistic conjuring of compound flowers; their ambiguous perspective, in which perceived depth oscillates as it does to the eye in bright, outdoor light; and their all-over compositional feel, akin to that of Jackson Pollock canvases. And the horse and dog studies, with their sense of true relaxation, are unsentimentally appealing. But the portraits and more-often-than-not-nude figure paintings--the bulk of his most celebrated work? One could be forgiven for thinking them off-puttingly blotchy and lumpy, and, in the nudes, too naked. Thus, it is very fortunate that these pictures are so incisively introduced here by Sebastian Smee, calling attention to their allusions, the implications of their brushwork and impasto, and Freud's hopes for his achievement in them. One can look again--and start to really see. Ray Olson
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